Last Sunday (12/31) marked the end of the Buccaneers football season. They went 5 and 11 but finished with a bang by scoring a touchdown in the last 15 seconds to defeat the New Orleans Saints 31-24! I was lucky enough to attend courtesy of my son, Mike.
Pre-game Stadium Panorama (iPhone
The start of the game was really nice. There were fireworks and an Air Force flyover, and the group that sang the National Anthem was extremely good.
Pre-game F-15 formation flyover
They introduced the pilots from the four planes later in the game.
Air Force F-15 Pilots from the pre-game flyover
We had a wonderful view of the action from Mike’s seats on the second level towards the North end zone.
Winston handing off to Barber
Bucs score (just barely)!
The Buccaneers pirate ship lets loose with a broadside!
National Football League rules allows cameras if the longest dimension is 12 inched or less, but they’re very strict about bags. So I brought my Olympus EM-1 Mark II with a 75-300mm lens on a sling strap, with a spare battery in my pocket. Since Micro 4/3 has a 2x crop factor, this gave me an effective focal length of 600mm – pretty good in such a small package!
I used the camera in Olympus Pro Capture mode which let me select frames with peak action – ideal for this kind of photo-op. Although the camera can shoot at 60 frames per second (!) I limited it to 10. This cut down on the number I had to review and I think it was more than enough.
The game started at 4:30, and light quickly became a problem. I shot wide open and had to balance ISO and shutter speed. The 75-300mm is a fine lens, but it’s a dim f/6.7 at the long end. I was getting about 1/500th second at ISO 1600. I got some usable frames with this though I really wanted an even faster shutter speed. As the sun set I kept raising the ISO and eventually ran out of light at ISO 6400 when my shutter speed dropped below 1/400. I usually don’t use such a high ISO setting, but I think the camera did well with it this time.
The city looked pretty at sunset from the second deck.
Stadium Sunset (iPhone, 3 frame panorama)
It was great going to the game with Mike and we enjoyed seeing the Bucs win.
Many thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
My buddy Tom M. suggested that we go by the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. You may remember this post I wrote about it back in 2013. I haven’t been since then and haven’t kept up with what’s going on there. So I was surprised to spot this pair way in the back when we visited the Orangutans:
Baby Orangutan and Mom are both a little sleepy
Baby GoJo is less than a month old – born on Dec. 21, 2015 to Josie, a 30-year-old Bornean Orangutan. You can read more about them including info on the zoo’s Orangutan conservation efforts at their website: www.lowryparkzoo.org/about/newsroom/2015/12/29/santa-baby… (sorry – no longer available)
Next we wandered over to see the Chimpanzees and immediately saw another very cute young one scampering about:
Baby Chimp and foster Mom
This one’s name is Keeva, and she was born on March 12, 2015 in a Maryland zoo. When her birth mother was unable to care for her, they brought her to Tampa where she’s been adopted by Abby. Abby has a lot of experience successfully fostering orphan chimps and was specifically picked to care for Keeva. It was wonderful to see the youngster thriving with her foster Mom. You can read more of this story at the Maryland zoo site, which also talks about their chimp conservation efforts: www.marylandzoo.org/2015/05/keeva/(sorry – no longer available)
And there are two young elephants. Mpumi was born on Dec 23, 2012 and was there the last time I visited. Mavi was born on July 29, 2013 – I think that’s who this is.
Baby Elephant and Mom
We also saw a Zebra foal (Penda, born November23, 2015) and her Mom, although my long distance photo through two fences isn’t very good. When I got home, I did the research I should have done before I went and found out there are other babies there that we didn’t spot. Check out the Lowry Park Zoo’s animals page for current info.
If you like zoos and babies (who doesn’t like babies?) – now is a great time to visit the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. While I sometimes have mixed feeling about zoos, this one seems very deserving of our support. The animals appear well cared for and they’re doing important work in conservation of endangered animals such at the ones pictured in this post. For a limited time, you can pay for a one day pass and use it during the rest of the year. See here for details. (sorry – no longer available)
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
So I went to two different places last week. Kevin M. took me to the Lake Apopka Restoration Area to look for the Groove Billed Ani that’s been hanging around. I’d never been there and was glad he invited me, not only for a chance at a life bird, but also to scout the area. I’ve also driven around Lake Lawsona in downtown Orlando and thought there might be some photos lurking there, but couldn’t find any place to park. Then I discovered that Mayor Carl T. Langford Park isn’t far away so I left my car there and walked over.
To make a long (and photographically humbling) story short, I photographed both places, but didn’t like any of the images enough to post. And we didn’t see the Ani either.
I did chase the light – I just didn’t catch it.
Since I’m a little stuck for material this week, I went back into my archives and found a four photo panorama that I’d never processed from a trip to Tampa in 2013. After stitching it together, I like the light in this image well enough.
Looking north toward Piney Point from Fred Howard Park in Tampa, August 2013
Like any creative activity, photography is difficult at times. I struggled last week, but I try not to get discouraged – this happens to everyone. I keep trying and enjoy the effort. As Florida Nature Photographer John Moran says in his book Journal of Light:
“Nature photography isn’t always about the picture, it’s about the experience of just being there, chasing the light, alive and awake and aware.”
I first noticed the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa, Florida in April of 2012. We left from there on a cruise and the aquarium is right across from the terminal where we boarded. We didn’t have time to visit then, but I finally went back to see it last week.
Flying Starfish (not really – it was climbing on the aquarium glass); 27mm, f/2.8 @ 1/40s, ISO 3200
The Florida Aquarium has more than 20,000 plant and animal species on display and you’ll find many of the typical photo ops there. Major exhibits are “Journey to Madagascar”, “Wetlands Trail”, “Penguin Point”, “Bays and Beaches”, “Coral Reef”, and “Ocean Commotion”. The Coral Reef tank is big (~500,000 gallons), and has plenty of larger fish living there (sharks, rays and turtles, etc.). You’ll also find land animals such as birds, snakes, lizards and lemurs in the different exhibits.
Info for Photographers
As with any similar indoor attraction, the light is dim. You’ll need a camera with good high ISO capabilities, and the larger your lens aperture, the better. Image stabilization will help a little, but maybe not as much as you’d think, because your subjects will often be moving. You might also want to bring a polarizer to cut down on reflections in the glass although that’ll make the scenes even darker. I didn’t use a polarizer – I just tried to keep my camera lens as close to the glass as I could to block reflections. I’ve added exposure info to the captions in these photos so you can see what my settings were.
Toadfish; 38mm, f/3.2 @ 1/17s, ISO 1600
Tripod/Monopod: I carried a small one with me, but didn’t use it. Subject motion and other people in the venue made a tripod less useful.
Lenses: My 27 – 85mm equivalent lens covered most of the opportunities. I shot wide open (f/2.8 – f/4), with image stabilization turned on, and ISO sensitivities between 800 – 3200.
Best time to visit: We got there just after it opened (~9:30) on a weekday. The crowds were pretty light. This is a good place to visit in the summer, since it’s air-conditioned!
The aquarium offers many kid oriented activities. And they’ll also take you on a Wild Dolphin Cruise on Tampa Bay where you can see these animals and others in a non-captive environment. Certified SCUBA divers can Dive With the Sharks in the aquarium, and behind the scene tours are also offered.
Chameleon; 54mm, f/3.6 @ 1/45s, ISO 1000
The Florida Aquarium is a good family outing and offers many photo opportunities too.
A Sulawesi Tarictic Hornbill at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida
We spent a good bit of time in “Primate World” watching the family of Orangutans. The young one (I think this is RanDee, born in August 2008) was full of energy, swinging all around on the platforms and ropes. The adults watched her with very human-like “where does she get the energy” looks. Finally, RanDee rested for a bit behind her mom (DeeDee).
Resting behind mom – A young orangutan rests after play.
Hours are 9:30 to 5, every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas and admission is $24.95 for adults, which is a relative bargain when compared to theme parks costs. Parking is plentiful, close and free. I think many of the photo-ops are even better than at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (and cheaper too).
Their photography policy is fairly standard: photos / video are permitted “for personal use”. Permission is required in advance if your photos or video will be used for commercial purposes.
Eye contact – A Mandrill evaluates my camera technique. And doesn’t seem to like it.
Travel as light as you can, you’ll be walking a good bit.
Tripod/Monopod: I didn’t see any signs allowing or prohibiting tripods and I didn’t see anyone using one. I usually leave mine at home for zoo visits, since it’s easy to find something to prop your camera on to steady it, and using a tripod when it’s crowded can block other visitors.
A moderate to long (or all in one) zoom would be the best single lens to bring. At this zoo, you can sometimes get quite close to many of the animals so a shorter focal length is handy too.
Best time to visit:
If you’re a Florida resident, you already know that the cool time of the year is best for outdoor parks. Arrive as early in the day as possible. You’ll beat some of the crowds and the animals are more active then.
A few of the animals are behind glass, so you might want to bring a polarizing filter – although you can probably make do by placing your lens right up against the glass to avoid reflections. A small flash may be handy in some instances to fill in shadows.
Do a little research before you go to make sure you’re up to date on recent arrivals. The young ones are extra fun to see. As I watched Mpumi make her way across the elephant enclosure (closely watched by two adult females), I remarked “cute baby”. The woman standing next to me (holding her own infant) said “thank you”. Her baby – which I hadn’t noticed before then, was cute too.
Baby elephant Mpumi – She was born in December 2012.
This zoo has had some controversies. But it seems well run now and the animals appear happy and well cared for. They’re also participating in many conservation projects and have a manatee hospital where injured animals are treated and released.